In wholistic medicine, the body is part of a larger system, including also emotions, mind, relationships (with each other and with the environment) and spirit. This tradition acknowledges that the body has its physical functions and processes that deserve full assessment and treatment. However, the body is not seen as the only level of being.
The mind has great influence over the body, and maladies often have their origin there.
Consciousness is an entity in and of itself. Consciousness is a level of being that can influence the body, as well as being influenced by the body. How consciousness comes into being, and how it relates to the physical body is explained in many variations on the theme of mind-body or bodymind approaches. (These are beyond the range of our present discussion.)
At one end of this spectrum are those who hold that mind and emotions are products of the physical body but that psychological factors may be act upon the body. Emotional tensions can activate stress responses that impact the body. For instance, the nervous system tightens the voluntary muscles of locomotion. Chronic muscular tensions can result in tension headaches, backaches, TMJ problems, and repetitive stress injuries. Involuntary muscles can tighten into asthmatic attacks in the lungs, irritable bowel syndrome and other dysfunctions in the gut, and into hypertension and circulatory disorders in the cardiovascular system. Adrenalin and stress steroids also tighten muscles, raise blood pressure, and alter immune system functions. Many conventional doctors accept some or all of these as possible mechanisms contributing to illness.
Some wholistic therapists stop short of hypothesizing motivating forces that extend beyond the body, other than social ones, staying close to the conventional medical model.
Further along the wholistic spectrum, the body is seen as an expression of spirit manifesting into the material plane of existence. Spirit is the primary level of existence. Spirit expresses itself through everything that is. Sub-units of spirit, human souls, incarnate as physical human beings. All of life, every particle and nuances of beingness and relatingness, is a part of the lesson of physical incarnation. Figure 2 diagrams this perspective.
Note that the arrows point in both directions, indicating that events at each level of being can influence our experiences with the other levels. For instance, physical and emotional experiences may heighten our spiritual awareness.
Regardless of your position along the wholistic spectrum, if you can conceive of connections between spirit, mind, emotions and body, many more interventions open up for addressing physical problems.
Figure 2. Wholistic view of beingness and
Much illness is unhappiness sailing under a physiologic flag.
Before wholistic therapists treat symptoms or illnesses, it is important to ask, ï¿½What is your body saying through these problems?ï¿½ My experience as a psychiatric psychotherapist is that simply asking this questionis often sufficient to bring a person to awareness of underlying stress factors.
We have many terms in common usage derived from body parts and functions. It would not be unusual to hear any of the following metaphoric body terms mentioned in casual conversation: I had a gut feeling that something was wrong, and bellyached to my friend about how my nose was bent out of shape. She cried her eyes out over this tearjerker, but after brooding over it for a while, decide to put her best foot forward and not be such a bleeding heart. After I spilled my guts over the problem, I had a good belly laugh at how foolish Iï¿½d been and breathed a big sigh of relief. (See Table 1 for a spectrum of such terms, and Humor$ for another tongue-in-cheek sampling of such terms.)